Ice rink planners seek public input on potential

Anybody like the idea of gliding on ice or slapping a hockey puck around, even in a winter town that doesn’t have a National Hockey League, for the second time since 2004-05?

A group called Grand Strand Ice Management is plotting for the means to bring an ice rink to the area, and everyone is welcome to weigh in with opinions and desires about such a possible project.

A survey posted at lets the public denote how they would make use of such a rink year round and what options they might desire. They might include figure skating/synchronized skating; public skating sessions; youth, school, college and adult hockey; and other sports such as curling and broomball.

Steve Elias Jr., who by day helps handle capital markets within BB&T, is general manager of Grand Strand Ice Management, with partners Wayne Fussaro, the chief financial officer, and Rick Lewis. He said the group began researching its quest in June 2011 and has met with officials from Coastal Carolina University, the owner of the former Pee Dee Pride minor-league professional team in Florence, and other companies to discuss prospects.

The U.S. Figure Skating Association having a conference this past May just north of Myrtle Beach also excited Elias, who noted the irony of scheduling that event in a locale without any place to ice skate.

The closest arenas for anyone to skate on ice are in Wilmington, N.C., North Charleston, Irmo and suburban Raleigh.

Elias said 13 high schools in South Carolina, including Wando in Mount Pleasant, have ice hockey teams, and 15 colleges across the Carolinas play the sport.

Question | What Grand Strand site might provide an ideal, central spot with easy access from other directions for an ice rink?

Answer | Maybe ... near the new McDonald’s on International Drive, in the middle of the Myrtle Beach area.

Q. | How will this growing market fuel the interest in ice sports?

A. | Forty-five percent of the population has moved from the North. Also, we’re expecting to have to build more housing for more Northerners coming in.

Q. | In what ways might an ice rink provide a hub in the community?

A. | It allows people from all different age groups to meet and utilize the facility. The rink opens up opportunities for social offerings and activities for the community. The facility I’m talking about isn’t geared toward having a 5,000- to 10,000-seat capacity. It would be more of a community center that is able to have roughly 1,200 seats maximum, with being able to allow organizations like Coastal Carolina University to have a hockey team and to let the Grand Strand area have a hockey league.

Q. | What other doors might an arena open?

A. | Think about the U.S. Curling Association and the numerous curling opportunities. ... You don’t necessarily need to know how to ice skate; you walk on the ice to do curling. Or you could do broomball, or go to see a holiday ice show, which is actually ice theater. They could do “Fame” or “Annie,” and they would do it on ice.

Q. | Where would a grand opening date fall ideally on your timetable?

A. | On our wish list, it’s Memorial Day weekend of 2014.

Q. | How big an outlet has skating provided in your life, amid many transplants here who might miss access to ice since moving here?

A. | I’m from New Jersey, and I have been on the ice since I was 3 years old. I was just up in Wilmington, referring the University of North Carolina vs. University of Richmond in college hockey. I’ve been referring hockey for 24 years, from college and high school levels, from the East Coast Hockey League down through youth hockey. ...

Before I moved to Myrtle Beach, that was one of the things I was going to leave behind, and as soon as I was in Myrtle Beach, I put it as my goal to bring an ice rink here, personally for my kids. ... I have a son who’s 12 and a daughter who’s 9. ... She does both figure skating and hockey, and he was just in hockey.

Q. | What range of feedback does Grand Strand Ice Management hope to glean from the survey?

A. | We have to hear from tourist groups. And the Myrtle Beach XTreme Hockey program: Every person I’ve talked with there said if there were an ice rink, they’d be skating.

Q. | “Christmas on Ice” at the Palace Theatre has let skating fans see a show for three straight Christmas season. How far do people go to play or see ice hockey, or go ice skating?

A. | One of my friends in the ECHL is coming down on Dec. 15; he’ll be referring the South Carolina Stingrays game against the Gwinnett (Ga.) Gladiators that day. Roughly 10 to 12 people I know of who are members of USA Hockey actually travel to Charleston or Wilmington to play ice hockey because they love the sport so much.

Q. | What other benefits do sports and activities on the ice give people who lace up boots with blades?

A. | It brings the same stuff that all team sports to: camaraderie, responsibility, accountability, and it allows the development and maturity for youth. I’m 41 and still going at it. My father is 65, and he still plays roller hockey ... and he transferred to ice hockey. ... Also, you burn 560 calories per hour, when you’re pumping and skating.